Given that the stock market appears to finally be taking a pause after a decade long run, this may seem like a terrible time to talk about subtleties like debt versus equity or how to finance federal debt. Yet this is exactly the time when something like what is proposed here would be useful for the government and investors alike.
Our national debt is financed through a complex system with fixed interest and market trading which is cumbersome and difficult. Worse, it ties the government down to fixed costs which are currently taking up 329B$ per year in interest payments, nearly $3,000 per household.
In short, there has to be a better way to manage the 21T$ or so of debt. Step one would be not creating more, but here is a plan for managing the potentially crippling debt we already have.
The layoff notices came right after Thanksgiving. GM, a symbol of American industry, was going to close four US plants and can over 14,000 workers. Despite the relatively low numbers of people involved, the symbolic value is tremendous. The company was once the symbol of American manufacturing might. Besides, after a bankruptcy and government bailout the company surely has had what it needs to bounce back, right?
Yet there is much more to the story than this. Automobile manufacturing is in a period of massive, completely disruptive change. GM has been in trouble for a very long time simply because it cannot possibly change, and there are reasons to believe that everything is only going to be worse.
Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, has been trying to explain the situation to members of Congress this week. It’s unlikely that she can, especially since the very fact that she is obliged to do so points to the real problem. The national industrial model is dead, and it is being replaced with a global market model. GM’s problem is that it simply has not adapted to this reality in any important way.
A new approach to economics is essential to understand and master the changing nature of the world. Humans have mastered or at least learned to predict and cope with natural issues. Food is plentiful, even with a high global population. People are moving to cities everywhere, meaning that daily life is defined by interactions with people more than with the natural world.
People’s Economics is about mastering that world.
Our life, and the lives of everyone around the planet, are defined more and more by technology. Will this enrich our lives or enslave us? Will it make people happy or redundant? The answers to these questions are the difference between a future dystopia and a time of great abundance. It is essential for the implementation of Industry 4.0 as well.
The world has been coming together for a very long time. Trade between civilizations has given each of them a peek into new worlds which dazzled and challenged them in turns. From the Silk Road of 2,000 years ago to the shipping lanes of today, trade has often defined how the world comes together.
As important as this has been, it has never been even or reliable. Trade is defined by people and their desires. Economic value is always what the buyer is willing to pay for something, and far too often the definition of things like money and credit has had a large role in how it works out. Contact between people brings more than physical goods, too – it brings envy, greed, curiosity and concern among many other emotions.
A world defined by people and their needs is a connected world. But those connections have to be at a human level more than at a money level if they are going to be sustainable. Connection in and of itself is one of the Five Points of the definition of People’s Economics for this reason.
A world which seems to move faster all the time usually doesn’t feel like it at all. Like a car on a highway, speed is never what people sense. Yet the faster the speed, the more likely it is that every bump in the road or sudden gust of wind can cause an accident.
A few decades ago, cars felt simply dangerous at high speeds. As technology advances they become more comfortable and much safer because they are more stable. It’s not a static balance that they achieve, but a dynamic reaction to every bump and every change, correcting it back to controllable and level.
The same sense of dynamic stability is essential to a faster moving economy as well. This is why it is one of the Five Points of People’s Economics.
After World War II, America settled down to a comfortable life and much of the world started to rebuild. Using the industrial models that defined the times, including the war, the entire process was described in terms of developing a “consumer economy.” The main economic function of people was to consume what industry produced, guaranteeing profit and growth. It was dynamic in that money changed hands rapidly, yet static in the view of where capital comes from and how it was used.
As more nations developed the process was expected to continue. But it did not. Societies, particularly in Asia, found many reasons to save money and develop themselves and their families for the long haul. This has been a critical change which, when applied properly, makes market based systems work even better.
This is also why a true market based system focused on people has to emphasize investment over consumption. It is a big part of the definition of People’s Economics, as this continues.
Market day. The open stalls bubble with activity as vendors show off their products. Small handwritten signs tell you what it will take to make them yours, but you know that’s just a starting point. You can offer less, especially to the quieter booths away from the activity. But have cash on hand to make the trade quickly once you have a mutual agreement on what everyone considers fair.
That’s the common view of what a “free market” is, and it’s something everyone around the world has experience with. It seems perfectly natural, an essential part of being human. It can’t possibly need interference from other people to make it work, can it?
Yet as the world comes closer together, the definitions of nearly everything wind up befuddled in language, definitions of fairness, and sometimes the simple lack of a personal connection.